ICIJ publishes final batch of Pandora Papers data on more than 9,000 offshore companies, trusts and foundations

The Offshore Leaks Database spans five dif­fer­ent leaks, and now includes infor­ma­tion on off­shore com­pa­nies, foun­da­tions and trusts from sev­en off­shore ser­vice providers from ICIJ’s lat­est inves­ti­ga­tion on the use of tax havens.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is adding a large vol­ume of new infor­ma­tion to its Offshore Leaks Database — incor­po­rat­ing addi­tion­al data from the Pandora Papers inves­ti­ga­tion about ben­e­fi­cial own­ers, share­hold­ers, direc­tors and oth­er types of offi­cers from more than 9,000 off­shore com­pa­nies, foun­da­tions and trusts.

The new data comes from sev­en off­shore providers head­quar­tered in Hong Kong, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Switzerland and Dubai.

They are Asiaciti Trust Asia Limited, CILTrust International, Commence Overseas Limited, IlShin, Overseas Management Company Inc, SFM Corporate Services and Trident Trust Company Limited. Sixteen cur­rent and for­mer coun­try lead­ers were con­nect­ed to off­shore enti­ties that received ser­vices from these providers.

ICIJ believes that pro­vid­ing this data to all for free helps shine light on the off­shore econ­o­my and, in many cas­es, the dam­age it caus­es. ICIJ is pub­lish­ing this infor­ma­tion in the pub­lic inter­est. There are legit­i­mate uses for off­shore com­pa­nies, trusts and foun­da­tions; the pres­ence of a person’s or a company’s name is not intend­ed to sug­gest or imply that they have engaged in ille­gal or improp­er conduct.

As with pre­vi­ous sets of leaked data, ICIJ is not pub­lish­ing raw doc­u­ments or per­son­al infor­ma­tion en masse. The Offshore Leaks data­base con­tains a great deal of struc­tured infor­ma­tion about com­pa­ny own­ers, prox­ies and inter­me­di­aries in secre­cy juris­dic­tions, but it doesn’t dis­close pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, bank accounts infor­ma­tion, pass­ports and oth­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion documents.

With the addi­tion of this data, the Offshore Leaks data­base now has infor­ma­tion on more than 750,000 names of peo­ple and com­pa­nies behind secret off­shore struc­tures with links to more than 200 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries. In all, the Offshore Leaks data­base has data on more than 810,000 off­shore enti­ties from five dif­fer­ent leaks: Pandora Papers, Paradise Papers, Bahamas Leaks, Panama Papers and Offshore Leaks.

In October 2021, ICIJ revealed as part of its Pandora Papers inves­ti­ga­tion that it had iden­ti­fied the secret deals and hid­den assets of more than 330 politi­cians and high-lev­el pub­lic offi­cials in more than 90 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries, includ­ing 35 cur­rent or for­mer coun­try lead­ers. An ICIJ analy­sis also found more than 45 Russian oli­garchs using off­shore enti­ties. Some of the data explored for these ana­lyzes is now avail­able in the Offshore Leaks Database.

The Pandora Papers inves­ti­ga­tion, the largest-ever jour­nal­is­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion in his­to­ry, was based on a trove of more than 11.9 mil­lion records from 14 off­shore ser­vice providers that offer ser­vices to wealthy indi­vid­u­als, celebri­ties, crim­i­nals and multi­na­tion­als world­wide. By using shell com­pa­nies, trusts, foun­da­tions and oth­er enti­ties in low- or no-tax juris­dic­tions, pro­vid­ing lit­tle to no trans­paren­cy, the ser­vice providers’ clients often con­cealed their iden­ti­ties from the pub­lic and some­times from regulators.

The pub­li­ca­tion of the Pandora Papers trig­gered reac­tions around the world: gov­ern­ments promised tougher laws, con­vened pub­lic hear­ings and launched inves­ti­ga­tions. Other pub­lic offi­cials were forced to answer ques­tions about their own finan­cial deal­ings, or the off­shore maneu­vers of peo­ple close to them. Watchdog groups clam­ored for more efforts to end the shad­ow finan­cial sys­tem that cov­ers up tax dodg­ing and mon­ey laundering.

Russia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, China, Brazil, Ukraine and Venezuela are among the coun­tries with the largest num­ber of ben­e­fi­cial own­ers hid­den behind off­shore enti­ties in the Pandora Papers.

The com­pa­nies, foun­da­tions and trusts that are part of this new pub­li­ca­tion were reg­is­tered between the 1970s and 2019 in secre­cy juris­dic­tions such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Singapore, Seychelles, and Hong Kong, among oth­ers. More than 4,500 enti­ties pub­lished with this new release are reg­is­tered in the British Virgin Islands.

A sig­nif­i­cant part of the ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship infor­ma­tion in the Pandora Papers, includ­ing the data being pub­lished today, comes from doc­u­ments that some of the off­shore ser­vices providers  need­ed to com­pile for the British Virgin Islands’ ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship reg­is­ter (also known as “BOSS”), which BVI author­i­ties estab­lished in the wake of ICIJ’s pub­li­ca­tion of the Panama Papers in 2016. This ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship infor­ma­tion which ICIJ has now inte­grat­ed into its Offshore Leaks data­base is espe­cial­ly impor­tant as it is not made avail­able else­where to the pub­lic. Nearly half of all the providers in the Pandora Papers have pro­vid­ed ser­vices as reg­is­tered agents in the British Virgin Islands — estab­lish­ing com­pa­nies for thou­sands of clients look­ing for anonymity.

The biggest por­tion of the Pandora Papers trove, more than 3.3 mil­lion records, came from a sole off­shore ser­vice provider: Trident Trust. Trident Trust, with offices in the British Virgin Islands and oper­a­tions in more than 20 juris­dic­tions, is one of the world’s largest off­shore ser­vice providers. Questions about who owns Trident Trust went unan­swered last year when ICIJ con­tact­ed the company.

According to an ICIJ analy­sis, near­ly a third of all politi­cians and pub­lic offi­cials iden­ti­fied in the Pandora Papers data were clients of Trident Trust, the provider with the sec­ond largest num­ber of this type of clients in the data. Among these 97 politi­cians and offi­cials are sev­en cur­rent and for­mer coun­try lead­ers, includ­ing Gabon’s pres­i­dent Ali Bongo, Qatar’s cur­rent ruler Tamim Al Thani and Haiti’s for­mer Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe.

The Offshore Leaks Database now con­tains records on more than 1,500 off­shore enti­ties reg­is­tered in the British Virgin Islands that got ser­vices from Trident Trust.

Trident Trust also pro­vid­ed ser­vices to U.S. trusts cre­at­ed from 2000 to 2019 that ICIJ iden­ti­fied dur­ing the Pandora Papers inves­ti­ga­tion. Out of 206 trusts, 43 were reg­is­tered with Trident Trust’s local office in South Dakota. ICIJ’s data analy­sis shows that in total, the U.S. trusts in the Pandora Papers held assets worth more than $1 bil­lion, includ­ing real estate in Florida, New York and Germany, and accounts with banks in Panama, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and elsewhere.

Along with the off­shore enti­ties asso­ci­at­ed with Trident Trust, anoth­er more than 7,000 enti­ties linked to the oth­er six providers in this data release are also now includ­ed in the Offshore Leaks data­base. Data asso­ci­at­ed with those six providers includes at least 71 politi­cians and high lev­el pub­lic offi­cials who used those enti­ties. Among them are 10 cur­rent and for­mer coun­try lead­ers from Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Gabon, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguay, Peru and Qatar. One of them also got ser­vices from Trident Trust.

While the new­ly released data con­tains rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion that was pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able to the pub­lic, not every offi­cer or sig­nif­i­cant indi­vid­ual fea­tured in Pandora Papers report­ing appears in the Offshore Leaks data­base. This is because infor­ma­tion about own­er­ship is often buried in emails, pow­er-of-attor­ney let­ters and inter­nal notes and can­not eas­i­ly be extract­ed in a sys­tem­at­ic manner.

ICIJ’s data and tech teams ded­i­cat­ed months to the struc­tur­ing of the infor­ma­tion that was iden­ti­fied as being impor­tant by the teams’ data jour­nal­ists and devel­op­ers as well as by reporters and media part­ners across the world. To extract infor­ma­tion from the mil­lions of records, ICIJ com­bined a series of meth­ods that var­ied for each of the 14 off­shore ser­vices providers. The team com­bined and stan­dard­ized infor­ma­tion com­ing from spread­sheets; used pro­gram­ming lan­guages to auto­mate data extrac­tion and struc­ture the infor­ma­tion; and employed machine learn­ing and oth­er tools. The team also man­u­al­ly extract­ed details from hand­writ­ten or hard-to-read forms. After struc­tur­ing the infor­ma­tion, ICIJ staffers put the data through a rig­or­ous fact-check­ing process that incor­po­rat­ed ICIJ’s bespoke data clean­ing and val­i­da­tion tool, Prophecies.

Since December 2021, ICIJ has added more than 25,000 off­shore enti­ties records from the Pandora Papers to the Offshore Leaks data­base. They are explorable through the search engine and can be fil­tered by data sources, linked coun­tries and reg­is­tered juris­dic­tions fil­ters, among oth­er options. The data in the Offshore Leaks Database is also avail­able for down­load for non-com­mer­cial purposes.

Original source of arti­cle: www.icij.org